Alveolar consonant

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Alveolar ( /ælˈvələr/ ; [1] UK also /ælviˈlər/ [2] ) consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli (the sockets) of the upper teeth. Alveolar consonants may be articulated with the tip of the tongue (the apical consonants), as in English, or with the flat of the tongue just above the tip (the "blade" of the tongue; called laminal consonants), as in French and Spanish.


The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) does not have separate symbols for the alveolar consonants. Rather, the same symbol is used for all coronal places of articulation that are not palatalized like English palato-alveolar sh, or retroflex. To disambiguate, the bridge ([s̪,t̪,n̪,l̪], etc.) may be used for a dental consonant, or the under-bar ([s̠,t̠,n̠,l̠], etc.) may be used for the postalveolars. [s̪] differs from dental [θ] in that the former is a sibilant and the latter is not. [s̠] differs from postalveolar [ʃ] in being unpalatalized.

The bare letters [s,t,n,l], etc. cannot be assumed to specifically represent alveolars. The language may not make such distinctions, such that two or more coronal places of articulation are found allophonically, or the transcription may simply be too broad to distinguish dental from alveolar. If it is necessary to specify a consonant as alveolar, a diacritic from the Extended IPA may be used: [s͇,t͇,n͇,l͇], etc., though that could also mean extra-retracted. [3] The letters s, t, n, l are frequently called 'alveolar', and the language examples below are all alveolar sounds.

(The Extended IPA diacritic was devised for speech pathology and is frequently used to mean "alveolarized", as in the labioalveolar sounds [p͇,b͇,m͇,f͇,v͇], where the lower lip contacts the alveolar ridge.)


Alveolar consonants are transcribed in the IPA as follows:

LanguageOrthographyIPAMeaning in English
voiceless alveolar nasal Burmese [4] နှာ[à]'nose'
n voiced alveolar nasal English run[ɹʌn]
t voiceless alveolar plosive English top[tɒp]
d voiced alveolar plosive English debt[dɛt]
s voiceless alveolar fricative English suit[suːt]
z voiced alveolar fricative English zoo[zuː]
t͡s voiceless alveolar affricate English pizza[pit͡sə]
d͡z voiced alveolar affricate Italian zainod͡zaino]backpack
ɬ voiceless alveolar lateral fricative Welsh llwyd[ɬʊɪd]grey
ɮ voiced alveolar lateral fricative Zulu dlalaɮálà]to play
t͡ɬ voiceless alveolar lateral affricate Tsez элIни[ˈʔe̞t͡ɬni]winter
d͡ɮ voiced alveolar lateral affricate Pa Na [5] [d͡ɮau˩˧]'deep'
ɹ voiced alveolar approximant English red[ɹɛd]
θ̠ voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative Irish English Italy[ˈɪθ̠ɪli]
ð̠ voiced alveolar non-sibilant fricative Scouse English maid[meɪð̠]
l alveolar lateral approximant English loop[lup]
ɫ velarized alveolar lateral approximant English milk[mɪɫk]
ɾ alveolar flap English better[bɛɾɚ]
ɺ alveolar lateral flap Venda [vuɺa]to open
r alveolar trill Spanish perro[pero]dog
alveolar ejective Georgian [ia]tulip
t͡sʼ alveolar ejective affricate Chechen цIе [t͡sʼe]'name'
alveolar ejective fricative Amharic [ɛɡa]
t͡ɬʼ alveolar lateral ejective affricate Navajo tłʼóoʼdi[t͡ɬʼóːʔtɪ̀]'(at) the outside'
ɬ’ alveolar lateral ejective fricative Adyghe плӀы[pɬ’ə]'four'
ɗ voiced alveolar implosive Vietnamese đã[ɗɐː]Past tense indicator
ƭ voiceless alveolar implosive Serer ???
apical alveolar clicks (many distinct consonants) Nama !oas[ᵑ̊ǃˀoas]hollow
alveolar lateral clicks (many distinct consonants) Nama ǁî[ᵑ̊ǁˀĩː]discussed

Lack of alveolars

The alveolar or dental consonants [t] and [n] are, along with [k], the most common consonants in human languages. [6] Nonetheless, there are a few languages that lack them. A few languages on Bougainville Island and around Puget Sound, such as Makah, lack nasals and therefore [n], but have [t]. Colloquial Samoan, however, lacks both [t] and [n], but it has a lateral alveolar approximant /l/. (Samoan words written with t and n are pronounced with [k] and [ŋ] in colloquial speech.) In Standard Hawaiian, [t] is an allophone of /k/, but /l/ and /n/ exist. There are no languages which have no alveolars at all.

Labioalveolar consonants

In labioalveolars, the lower lip contacts the alveolar ridge. Such sounds are typically the result of a severe overbite. In the Extensions to the IPA for disordered speech, they are transcribed with the alveolar diacritic on labial letters: m͇ p͇ b͇ f͇ v͇.

See also


  1. "alveolar" . Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press.(Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
    "alveolar". Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  2. "ALVEOLAR | English meaning - Cambridge Dictionary". Cambridge Dictionary .
    "alveolar". . HarperCollins.
  3. E.g. in Laver (1994) Principles of Phonetics, p. 559–560
  4. Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 111.
  5. Chen, Qiguang [陈其光]. 2001. "A Brief Introduction of Bana Language [巴那语概况]". Minzu Yuwen.
  6. Ian Maddieson and Sandra Ferrari Disner, 1984, Patterns of Sounds. Cambridge University Press

Related Research Articles

A fricative is a consonant produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate in the case of German ; or the side of the tongue against the molars, in the case of Welsh. This turbulent airflow is called frication.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phonetics</span> Branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human language

Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Linguists who specialize in studying the physical properties of speech are phoneticians. The field of phonetics is traditionally divided into three sub-disciplines based on the research questions involved such as how humans plan and execute movements to produce speech, how various movements affect the properties of the resulting sound, or how humans convert sound waves to linguistic information. Traditionally, the minimal linguistic unit of phonetics is the phone—a speech sound in a language which differs from the phonological unit of phoneme; the phoneme is an abstract categorization of phones, and it is also defined as the smallest unit that discerns meaning between sounds in any given language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Place of articulation</span> Place in the mouth consonants are articulated

In articulatory phonetics, the place of articulation of a consonant is a location along the vocal tract where its production occurs. It is a point where a constriction is made between an active and a passive articulator. Active articulators are organs capable of voluntary movement which create the constriction, while passive articulators are so called because they are normally fixed and are the parts with which an active articulator makes contact. Along with the manner of articulation and phonation, the place of articulation gives the consonant its distinctive sound.

Coronals are consonants articulated with the flexible front part of the tongue. Among places of articulation, only the coronal consonants can be divided into as many articulation types: apical, laminal, domed, or subapical as well as different postalveolar articulations : palato-alveolar, alveolo-palatal and retroflex. Only the front of the tongue (coronal) has such dexterity among the major places of articulation, allowing such variety of distinctions. Coronals have another dimension, grooved, to make sibilants in combination with the orientations above.

A dental consonant is a consonant articulated with the tongue against the upper teeth, such as, . In some languages, dentals are distinguished from other groups, such as alveolar consonants, in which the tongue contacts the gum ridge. Dental consonants share acoustic similarity and in Latin script are generally written with consistent symbols.

The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech sounds via the interaction of different physiological structures. Generally, articulatory phonetics is concerned with the transformation of aerodynamic energy into acoustic energy. Aerodynamic energy refers to the airflow through the vocal tract. Its potential form is air pressure; its kinetic form is the actual dynamic airflow. Acoustic energy is variation in the air pressure that can be represented as sound waves, which are then perceived by the human auditory system as sound.

Sibilants are fricative consonants of higher amplitude and pitch, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the teeth. Examples of sibilants are the consonants at the beginning of the English words sip, zip, ship, and genre. The symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet used to denote the sibilant sounds in these words are, respectively,. Sibilants have a characteristically intense sound, which accounts for their paralinguistic use in getting one's attention.

Postalveolar or post-alveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge. Articulation is farther back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate, the place of articulation for palatal consonants. Examples of postalveolar consonants are the English palato-alveolar consonants, as in the words "ship", "'chill", "vision", and "jump", respectively.

In phonetics, palato-alveolar or palatoalveolar consonants are postalveolar consonants, nearly always sibilants, that are weakly palatalized with a domed (bunched-up) tongue. They are common sounds cross-linguistically and occur in English words such as ship and chip.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Retroflex consonant</span> Type of consonant articulation

A retroflex, apico-domal, or cacuminalconsonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants—especially in Indology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voiced alveolar and postalveolar approximants</span> Consonantal sounds represented by ⟨ɹ⟩ / ⟨ð̠˕⟩ and ⟨ɹ̠⟩ in IPA

The voiced alveolar approximant is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the alveolar and postalveolar approximants is ɹ, a lowercase letter r rotated 180 degrees. The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voiced dental and alveolar lateral fricatives</span> Consonantal sounds represented by ⟨ɮ⟩ in IPA

The voiced alveolar lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents voiced dental, alveolar, and postalveolar lateral fricatives is ɮ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is K\.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alveolar click</span> Click consonant sound

The alveolar or postalveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia. The tongue is more or less concave, and is pulled down rather than back as in the palatal clicks, making a hollower sound than those consonants.

The voiced alveolar fricatives are consonantal sounds. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents these sounds depends on whether a sibilant or non-sibilant fricative is being described.

The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English speakers as the 'th' in think. Though rather rare as a phoneme among the world's languages, it is encountered in some of the most widespread and influential ones. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is θ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is T. The IPA symbol is the Greek letter theta, which is used for this sound in post-classical Greek, and the sound is thus often referred to as "theta".

In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the active articulator and passive articulator. Standard Spanish ⟨rr⟩ as in perro, for example, is an alveolar trill.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alveolo-palatal consonant</span> Type of consonant

In phonetics, alveolo-palatal consonants, sometimes synonymous with pre-palatal consonants, are intermediate in articulation between the coronal and dorsal consonants, or which have simultaneous alveolar and palatal articulation. In the official IPA chart, alveolo-palatals would appear between the retroflex and palatal consonants but for "lack of space". Ladefoged and Maddieson characterize the alveolo-palatals as palatalized postalveolars (palato-alveolars), articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge and the body of the tongue raised toward the palate, whereas Esling describes them as advanced palatals (pre-palatals), the furthest front of the dorsal consonants, articulated with the body of the tongue approaching the alveolar ridge. These descriptions are essentially equivalent, since the contact includes both the blade and body of the tongue. They are front enough that the fricatives and affricates are sibilants, the only sibilants among the dorsal consonants.

Linguolabials or apicolabials are consonants articulated by placing the tongue tip or blade against the upper lip, which is drawn downward to meet the tongue. They represent one extreme of a coronal articulatory continuum which extends from linguolabial to subapical palatal places of articulation. Cross-linguistically, linguolabial consonants are very rare, but they do not represent a particularly exotic combination of articulatory configurations, unlike click consonants or ejectives. They are found in a cluster of languages in Vanuatu, in the Kajoko dialect of Bijago in Guinea-Bissau, in Umotína, and as paralinguistic sounds elsewhere. They are also relatively common in disordered speech, and the diacritic is specifically provided for in the extensions to the IPA.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laminal consonant</span> Phone (speech sound)

A laminal consonant is a phone produced by obstructing the air passage with the blade of the tongue, the flat top front surface just behind the tip of the tongue in contact with upper lip, teeth, alveolar ridge, to possibly, as far back as the prepalatal arch, although in the last contact may involve parts behind the blade as well. It is distinct from an apical consonant, produced by creating an obstruction with the tongue apex only. Sometimes laminal is used exclusively for an articulation that involves only the blade of the tongue with the tip being lowered and apicolaminal for an articulation that involves both the blade of the tongue and the raised tongue tip. The distinction applies only to coronal consonants, which use the front of the tongue.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apical consonant</span> Phone (speech sound)

An apical consonant is a phone produced by obstructing the air passage with the tip of the tongue (apex) in conjunction with upper articulators from lips to postalveolar, and possibly prepalatal. It contrasts with laminal consonants, which are produced by creating an obstruction with the blade of the tongue, just behind the tip. Sometimes apical is used exclusively for an articulation that involves only the tip of the tongue and apicolaminal for an articulation that involves both the tip and the blade of the tongue. However, the distinction is not always made and the latter one may be called simply apical, especially when describing an apical dental articulation. As there is some laminal contact in the alveolar region, the apicolaminal dental consonants are also labelled as denti-alveolar.